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"Why are women so bloody hard to understand?" An irate James huffed as he sat down heavily.
"Beats me." Sirius shrugged.
"There should be a dictionary, or a manual, to the way a girl's mind works. A translation of what they say and what they really mean. An explanation of all the mad things they do." James declared to a fervently nodding Sirius.
"So, what'd you do this time?" Sirius asked eventually when James continued to sit there in silence looking downcast.
After spending so many years chasing her and enduring repeated rejections and insults, James had finally gotten the girl he had been lusting (and drooling) after for so long. Yet while he may have managed to charm her somehow into going out with him, and even marrying him, he still couldn't keep her fierce redhead temper averted from him.
"Dunno." James sighed dolefully.
"Men are just clueless." A female voice interrupted. Two startled heads turned to look at the girl sitting next to them. Lily's best friend. They hadn't noticed her presence when they had settled down in one of one of the couches in their house. He had forgotten that she was here too, as was Sirius, for some dinner thing Lily had wanted to have. To be honest, James hadn't really listened when she had been explaining it.
"Excuse me?" James asked, looking at the rude interruption.
The girl shrugged casually. "Men are clueless, and tactless. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for everything girls do. Men just don't understand."
James looked slightly incensed at her words. "Oh yeah?" He challenged, his eyebrows raised doubtfully.
She nodded. "There is a logical reason for her anger. You screwed up and Lily was just letting you know."
"I screwed up?" James questioned outraged. Really, the cheek of this girl. "And what are you, her spokes person?"
"No. I just thought you said you needed help understanding the workings of Lily Evans' mind." She replied slightly coolly.
"Yeah well… I don't!" James retorted huffily. He didn't need her help. He was just fine. Perfectly fine. So incredibly – wait… why was she leaving?
"Where are you going?" James called at her retreating back. She turned slowly and looked at him, tapping her foot impatiently.
"I'm…" James gulped. He could do this. He could do this. "I'm…" Taking a long slow breath he braced himself to say the hardest word in the world. "I'm s–" He pictured Lily's beautiful smiling face in his mind. He was doing this for her. Him and her. "I'm sorry." He finished pathetically, feeling more exhausted than if he had just tried to swim across the Great Lake.
"And…?" She smiled sweetly and James scowled. She was enjoying torturing him far too much.
"Will you help me?" James muttered back grudgingly.
With a wide smile she walked back over to the couch and sat down making herself comfortable.
"So you want to know the inner workings of Lily's mind?" James gave a definite nod. "What she says and what she really means." Another firm nod.
"Okay. To start: a few ground rules. When she says 'maybe' what she really means is yes. 'I'll think about it' is the same thing as 'of course'. 'I'll see' translates to 'never in a million years'. 'I suppose' means that she desperately wants to say no but your puppy dog eyes are making the guilt build up and she can't bare your disappointed face so she is reluctantly agreeing to whatever insane idea you have sprouted. 'No' indicates that she really wants to say yes but she doesn't want to seem overeager and wants to make you squirm first before really saying yes. Got that so far?"
James stared at her in utter bemusement with his mouth gaping rather unattractively. Why couldn't girls just bloody well say what they mean? This was worse than bloody code. In fact, it pretty much was a code.
He voiced his thoughts, a little more forcefully than he had intended, and her face remained unimpressed.
"Stop complaining. Do you want to know this or not?" She challenged. James knew as well as she did that she could easily get up and leave any minute. He also knew, all too well, that he desperately needed this advice. He had some long overdue grovelling and he was hoping to put off another argument for at least a week if possible.
"And close your mouth. You look like you're trying to catch flies." She added, watching his face with amusement.
James seemed to jolt awake from his reverie and looked a little disgruntled. "If 'no' pretty much means the same thing as yes, does that mean that Lily really has wanted to go out with me all these years? And then, why did she repeatedly torture me with rejections when she really wanted to go out with me?" James was more than a little disgruntled now. More like downright peeved.
She looked at him with what appeared to be sympathy. "She didn't say 'no' to all your dating proposals." She said simply. James was taken aback.
"Yes she did." He protested but she shook her head.
"Uh-uh. I believe some of her responses were 'No way in hell!' 'Get lost Potter!' 'I'd rather date the giant squid. Or Snape!' 'Get out of my way before I hex you.' 'F off Potter!' 'I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a fork' 'Go jump off the astronomy tower' –"
"Okay okay, I think I get the point. It was bad enough having to experience all of those once. I do not need to relive every single time Lily rejected me!" James cut her off hurriedly, looking a little pinker than usual. The corner of her mouth twitched slightly as she tried to conceal a smile.
"Anyway, all I was trying to point out is that she never actually said 'no' as such. Just other variations which actually meant no." She explained. "Ready to go on?" Still looking a little disgruntled James nodded.
"Now I'll give you a basic sum up of the terminology. Think of it as… a dictionary I suppose. Or the Bible." James goggled at her but refrained from interrupting. It was hard. "'Fine'. This is the word she uses to end an argument when she feels, or should I say knows, that she is right and you need to shut up before she belts you. This basically sums up every argument you have."
A rather unpleasant memory crept across James' rather stupefied mind. He winced slightly at the recollection.
"I can't believe you James Potter!" She had screamed. "It's completely ruined!"
Angry tears pricked at her eyes and James sheepishly looked at the offending object he had ruined. It was her favourite skirt that was now covered in green slimy goo. James winced as he eyed it. Not even he wanted to touch it. The goo had been aimed at Snape.
"It's not ruined. Look, it'll come off with a bit of water."
Being the incredibly bright wizard that he was, James aimed his wand at the skirt and shot a jet of water out the end. Lily's face quickly turned flaming red with fury.
"Now look what you've done!" She was completely drenched and shaking with suppressed, or not so suppressed, rage. The thought of performing a drying charm crossed James' mind but he tossed the idea away instantly. His life was already at stake.
James attempted a sheepish smile which Lily certainly did not fall for.
"Sorry Lily. I didn't mean for that to happen. I'll make it up to you. I'll buy you a new one." James apologised profusely but her face was set in anger.
"Fine." She said shortly.
That had been his cue to shut up supposedly. And to think, if he had known the terminology all that time ago he may have even prevented the half hour rant that followed.
That voice like a monotonous news reader continued. "Never use 'fine' to describe how she looks. Ever. This will only cause you to have yet another one of those arguments." She continued, oblivious to his momentary lapse of concentration.
"How do I look?" Lily was standing in front of the mirror gazing critically at her reflection. She has been there for the past half an hour. And for the two hours before that she has been getting herself ready despite James having told her that it was a 'casual' get together. To her, this clearly meant 'semi-formal' as opposed to 'formal'. She still believed that James was joking about going in jeans and a t-shirt.
James looked up carefully from where he had been falling asleep for the past two and a half hours from boredom. "Fine."
He didn't really need her piece of advice on that one. Just the memory of Lily's beautifully made up face growing pink and the long argument that had followed had sent him the clear message of never saying she looked 'fine'.
"'Five minutes'. This is the same thing as half an hour. It is equivalent to the five minutes that you will be playing quidditch for before you help with anything, so it's an even trade. And remember… DON'T RUSH HER!" She looked at him sternly and James found himself involuntarily looking sheepish.
James attempted to store that in his brain. Unfortunately his long term memory seemed to be malfunctioning from overload due to the massive intake of new information that was more that he had attempted to store in well over a year. Actually, probably ever.
"Lily, can you please get out of the shower?" James asked as patiently as he could while rapping on the door.
"Stop being so impatient. I'll be five minutes."
"Lily, we've been shopping for Christmas presents for ages. Are we nearly done yet?" James asked, the whine just audible in his voice.
"We're nearly done. Give me five minutes and then we can leave." James stared at his watch impatiently and counted down the seconds.
"No, not yet James. I said five minutes. Don't rush me."
Nearly an hour and five shopping bags later James managed to tear her away from the shops. He'd learned the meaning of that one long ago.
"'Nothing' really means 'something' and you should be on your toes. 'Nothing' is usually used to describe the feeling she has of wanting to turn you inside out, upside down, and backwards. 'Nothing' usually signifies an argument that will last 'five minutes' and end with 'fine' if you persist in annoying her. Take your cue and leave her alone. Maybe for the first time in your life, don't start another argument."
James really wasn't enjoying all the blame pointing at him. How come everything always seemed to be his fault? He contemplated voicing his aggravations but swallowed them instead. No doubt she would only give a smart arse reply and make him feel like an idiot again.
"Just out of interest, how long exactly is this 'dictionary'." James asked carefully. He didn't receive a reply. Rather a stern look that reminded him strongly of Professor McGonagall that clearly told him to shut up and listen. For the first time in his life, he did take the hint. She continued and James' look of intense concentration returned. In fact, all the concentration was really starting to give him a headache.
"'Go ahead' with raised eyebrows. This is a dare. One that will result in a woman getting upset over 'Nothing' and will end with the word 'Fine'."
Hmm. James looked thoughtful for another second, contemplation the argument they had just the other day.
"Does that mean I'm not allowed to give Harry a mohawk if she said to 'go ahead'?" James asked looking crestfallen.
Taking just after his dad, year-old Harry had a lovely tuft of the messiest raven hair. What was bad however, was Lily's tendency to give their son little ponytails, not to mention the pink bows. Which was why the only true solution was to give the infant a nice 'manly' do. Like a mohawk. Buy him a leather jacket and he'd be picking the girls up in no time. At least according to James, anyhow.
"What do you think?" She challenged. James looked unhappily at Sirius who shook his head sympathetically.
"Bingo." Damn. James had been really looking forward to that.
"A 'Loud Sigh' is not actually a word but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men, especially you. It means she thinks you are an idiot at that moment and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you over 'Nothing'." She looked at him with a small smile twitching at her lips. "Last week's argument over the TV."
James turned a little pink. Why did everyone always laugh at him over that? It was perfectly reasonable to think that there were miniature people in the stupid box. How was he supposed to know that they weren't trapped in there? He'd only been trying to set them free. It wasn't like he'd intentionally blasted it apart.
"'Soft Sigh'. Again, this in not a word but a non-verbal statement. She is content. Your best bet is to not move or breathe and she will stay content." A pleased look passed across James' face. So there was at least something he could do right.
Across the sofa, Sirius was making numerous mocking faces at James. Covering his snort of laughter with a hacking cough, James shot him a quick glare that seemed to lose its affect with the way his mouth twitched as if fighting back a grin.
"'That's okay' is one of the most dangerous statements that a woman can make to a man. 'That's Okay' means that she wants to think long and hard before paying you back for whatever it is that you have done. 'That's Okay' is often used with the word "Fine" and in conjunction with a 'Raised Eyebrow.'" That, look, the one that quite plainly said 'check your underwear for tarantulas from now on' was written plainly across her face.
Putting his memory to the test, James subconsciously scrunched up his nose slightly in concentration. Had she said 'that's okay' yesterday? When she'd discovered her favourite scarf made by her grandmother for her 9th birthday had been used to clean up Harry's most recent excrements? Well, honestly, how was he to know that she'd adored that scarf? Or that it had been the closest thing within reach at the time in the absence of tissues?
A sharp poke in the ribs brought her back to his attention. "Are you remembering all this so far?" As she eyes him dangerously, James nodded fervently in what he hoped was a convincing manner.
"Sometimes, she'll appreciate the times you act housetrained." She grinned mischievously, as if daring him to retort to her cleverly concealed insult. Instead, James settled for a glare. "Do something nice for her for a change. Cook dinner - without burning it or setting the house on fire. Bring her flowers. Tell her she's beautiful. Despite your allergic reaction to it, do the housework."
Making a gagging motion, James avoided the searching eyes of his best mate as the sound of his guffaws rang in his ears. Stupid prat, thought James mutinously. I don't see anyone asking him to do any housework.
"She will thank you. Don't faint. Don't start hyperventilating. It does happen occasionally. Just say you're welcome."
Nodding thoughtfully, James stared heavily at his hands, placed comfortably in his lap. Do something nice. That wasn't too hard. He'd cook dinner tonight. Wait, no, she'd already prepared a roast. Then he'd give her flower. Hmm, no, she was allergic to pollen. Cleaning… no, he didn't really want to go there. Buy her a gift? Ah, did the newest Nimbus 1500 count as a thoughtful present?
The startling voice brought James back to reality as he looked into a highly disapproving face.
"You've really got to learn not to mumble what you're thinking." She told him firmly. "And buying her a gift you want of which she has no use is not thoughtful in the least."
James frowned and let out a sigh. "Alright then, carry on." This was better over and done with.
"Whatever. 'Thanks a lot' should never be confused with a grateful 'thanks.' She will say 'Thanks A Lot' when she is really ticked off at you. It signifies that you have offended her in some callous way and will be followed by a 'Loud Sigh.' Be careful not to ask what is wrong after the 'Loud Sigh,' as she will only tell you 'Nothing'."
"What do you think James?" Lily sat down opposite James, her expression one of immense pride. With a beaming smile didn't falter as she waited expectantly for a reaction. Any reaction.
With growing trepidation, James peered down into the bowl placed neatly in front of him; the meal she had lovingly prepared just for him. Feeling a grimace coming on, James fought to keep a straight face. It looked like bark chips swimming in mud, or what Harry had left in his nappy yesterday.
"What is it?" Trying to keep his voice casual and upbeat as he eyed the dish warily, James could feel her penetrating gaze of him. Chancing a quick glance up, there was no mistaking the obvious offence evident on her face.
"Beef stew of course. What does it look like?"
Feeling this time that it would be safer not to answer, James bit his lip and frowned.
"Well," Her voice sounded snappish and it was amazing to James how quickly the mood had changed, "are you going to eat it or just stare at it?"
Her glare is boring a hole into your skull as you avoid her eyes. Gingerly, James picked up his spoon, taking the tiniest amount possible. Discreetly trying to block his nose, James hesitantly raised it to his lips, knowing her gaze never one moved from him. Her expression gave away every ounce of her dissatisfaction at his reaction.
Gagging slightly, James instantly downed his entire glass of water but nothing seemed to erase the lingering taste in his mouth. James' expectations had by no means been high, and even with his wild imagination thinking up how awful it could taste, it beat it. Feeling nauseous, James pushed the bowl away from him. Lily scowled.
"I'm not hungry." James' voice sounded feeble and Lily's eyes narrowed dangerously.
"You said you were starving ten minutes ago." She pointed out acidly.
James looked helplessly down at the table. "I lost my appetite." Her unfaltering hard expression proved that she saw straight through his weak smile.
"I spend all day cooking for you only to have you turn it away. Thanks a lot James."
James positively winced at the memory. His stomach growled with hunger just thinking of it. Two weeks on and he hadn't been given a proper meal in days. That's what suggesting to your wife that she should take up a new hobby does to you, he thought mulishly. She tries to cook, fails and then refuses to give you decent food for two weeks.
"This one, I'm sure is your favourite." She continued. "The Glare. You know the one. Where her eyes are narrowed to slits and her jaw is set in anger. This one she's kept all the way from your school days. This look has been perfected as nothing else has. She's furious."
His face growing hot, James felt a tremor of fear in him at the very thought. The Glare. The last time he'd seen that one in it's element he'd been chucked into a waiting room with cold coffee and stale biscuits by a nurse with no sense of humour.
Gazing down at the beautiful creation that was his new born son, James felt the sudden rise of emotion a little overpowering.
"Lils, what's wrong with him." Okay, he hadn't meant for it to come out so bluntly.
Her eyes narrowed, the change from the misty eyed gaze she'd been previously giving her son quite astounding. "What do you mean, what's wrong with him? He's beautiful."
Beautiful. That, James decided, was quite a matter of opinion. Maybe compared to a troll. Personally, James thought he looked more like a goo covered flobber worm.
"Why'd he all red and wrinkly? He looks like an angry miniature sumo-wrestler."
With a single finger, Lily delicately caressed the tiny face of her new-born son. "He looks just like his daddy." She said in a voice that sounded delirious with happiness.
James grimaced in disgust. "I'm not ugly!" His voice came out a little louder than intended and the grouchy nurse shot him a nasty look.
Turning in his direction, Lily glared furiously at him.
That was still a sore spot between them. James was just glad that baby Harry's looks had improved dramatically and was now well on his way to being as handsome as his daddy.
"Another popular one is 'What did you do?'. This is not a question, but a command. She is daring you to explain whatever crime you have committed and are currently burning with guilt from. But more so, she's begging you to give up your ridiculous attempts to flutter your eyelashes hopefully while giving her your best puppy dog eyes which only results in you appearing to have a nasty eye twitch."
Why did Lily have to tell her everything? Next thing he'd know and she'd be endlessly ridiculing him for… no he didn't want to even go there.
"So is there anything I can do right?" James asked flatly, feeling thoroughly fed up with this 'dictionary.'
A loud cough, in which something dirty and inappropriate was concealed, came from a currently chuckling Sirius. Everybody ignored him.
She smiled. "I believe there is. While again not a word, this is one of her favourites. The fluttering eyelashes accompanied with a sweet smile. Faultless. She's asking for something. She knows that you can't resist. That's why she does it. She always gets her way."
James sighed. Now that was true. He ended up like putty in her hands giving out foot massages and finding himself battling the blistering cold as he rushed to the nearest store for chocolate.
She was looking at him now, as if in completion.
"That's it?" James asked disbelievingly. She nodded.
"If you remember this, you are well on your way to avoiding some of those ever frequently occurring arguments."
The only problem, how was he supposed to remember all of that? It had taken her a good 15 minutes just to explain it all.
James looked at her questioningly. "So, er, when are you publishing the book then?"
Hours later, curled up in his warm bed, his hand sore from washing dishes, a cut on his finger from when he'd dropped a plate trying to help tidy up and a singe on his shirt from his over-enthusiasm with the cooking, and James was running through every piece of advice he could still remember.
"You okay James?" Lily's quiet voice interrupted his thought and he rolled over to face her. "You're acting a little strange tonight."
Shrugging, James realised she couldn't see this through the covers. "Yeah, I'm just thinking."
And suddenly, without meaning to, he was spilling the ridiculous lessons he'd wasted his afternoon listening to. A small giggle of laughter escaped Lily.
"You really asked her for help?" She question slightly disbelievingly. Without a word, James nodded.
Warm arms came to wrap around him and she shuffled into the crook of his arm.
"I love you James Potter." She whispered softly into his ear and giving him a full kiss on the lips. "We don't need dictionaries, or rules to keep up happy because we have each other. And Harry. And even when we make mistakes, we argue, we yell, it just makes all the other moments that much more special. That's all that matters."
Pulling her around to face him, James took her beautiful face in his hands, running a calloused finger over her soft cheek. "You're amazing Lils, you know that?"
As his mind later turned blissfully blank and he sunk into sleep, James felt some strange feeling of complete contentment. This is all he needed.
And then, just before sleep overtook him, he heard it. A soft sigh as she snuggled into his chest.
So, any preferences? Constructive criticisms? I know I said it in the first chapter, but just for good measure, I'd love you to review. I know that me saying that won't necessarily mean that you will, but I will greatly appreciate it if you do. xx